This image opened in a new window. Close the window to return to the essay.

Guerin Tableau
United in defense of "little Cuba" (Guerin, 1898)
Library of Congress

In this variation of Edward Amet's film Freedom of Cuba, Captain Fritz Guerin's tableau photograph shows North and South united in defense of "Little Cuba," symbolized by a young white girl who touches the clasped hands of two patriarchal military figures representing the Confederate and Union armies. As John Pettegrew points out in his discussion of the "relationship between the idea of the Civil War. . .and the construction of patriotism and nationalism during the Spanish-American War"(49), both northerners and southerners "commonly invoked the story and drama of [the Civil War's] sectional conflict and reunification in support of contemporary patriotic causes" (54). For example, the June 28, 1898 Indianapolis News published a story during the war (headlined "The South and the North. A Beautiful Incident among Camp Thomas Soldiers") which claimed that "nothing has been more evident in this camp, made up of sons of Federal and Confederates alike, than that sectionalism is dead. There is no longer a North or a South in the old sense; it is but a memory. Still, because of the awful sacrifice, it is a sacred memory to both." The article describes bands from the North and the South playing the tune "marching through Georgia" in a spontaneous display of unity until "the last vestige of reserve and hesitation had been swept away by the gallant action and the sons of Yanks and sons of Rebs met with clasped hands, swearing a new loyalty to each other and to 'Old Glory.'"

"If the war brings us nothing else, for this we are thankful"
New York Herald

The unbridled nationalism during the Spanish-American War also translated into strong feelings of international Anglo-Saxon unity among many whites in the United States (see Silber 180-182). Illustrating this, a cartoon in the 1898 New York Herald extends the metaphor expressed in the Guerin tableau to include England, thus completing the international circle of racial, political, and economic Anglo-Saxon imperialism. In addition to explicitly signifying the beginnings of the American participation in the global imperial project--a concrete result of this flourishing Anglo-Saxonist ideology--implicit in this logic (and present in the discourse of both northern and southern newspapers) is a return to the same ideological justification (i.e., freedom from colonial oppression) putatively assigned to the Revolutionary War. Indeed, newspapers would often align "Cuba libre" with the spirit and history of the American Revolution further suggesting that the Spanish-American War was fought not only to "turn the page" on the U.S. Civil War but also to reinvoke and revise the history and ideology of the Revolutionary War.